Johannesburg - More consumers are using mobile devices to bank online than two years ago, research published yesterday shows, but the increased uptake has resulted in a surge in security breaches.

Henk Pretorius, the chief executive of Columinate, a Johannesburg-based specialist online marketing research firm, said the use of smartphones and tablet devices had led to a significant growth in the number of remote banking users.

Two years ago, 99 percent of the sample group used laptops and personal computers (PCs) as the primary means to access online banking channels. This number has dipped 4 percentage points although PCs and laptops remain by far the most popular primary access device.

Last month Columinate surveyed 1 385 people who transact online at the five large banks – FNB, Standard Bank, Absa, Capitec and Nedbank – to understand their banking habits and preferences.

The proportion of respondents who sometimes do their banking on cellphones or smartphones has risen to 61 percent from 42 percent; tablet use to transact has more than doubled to 29 percent from 10 percent.

Pretorius said two years ago only three of the country’s five largest banks offered banking applications and the tools were only available for smartphones.

At the time consumers were making simple payments and doing basic account management online. The research shows users are now more sophisticated and use more than nine online banking features.

But the rise in online banking usage has escalated security concerns.

“The incidence of security breaches is the highest ever. The overall targets of internet banking fraud have increased from 54 percent [of users] to 62 percent in the last year, and victims of this fraud increased between 2013 and 2014,” he said.

“Banking customers have to contend with the usual attacks on accounts like phishing and deposit refund scams, as well as newer attempts like ‘smishing’ – the SMS version of phishing – and 419 [fraud] scams.”

The SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) was unable to comment by the time of going to print. But three days ago, it warned banking customers of an increase in e-mail hacking and other cybercrimes.

Sabric chief executive Kalyani Pillay said criminals had posed using brands such as the SA Revenue Services and requested a potential to log in using fake links they provided. The criminals would steal the log-in information to access the victim’s actual account. She also cautioned consumers to be wary of e-mails from addresses provided by Yahoo and Google.

“From reports to Sabric, it is clear that the most targeted e-mail services are those that are free as they do not require any special configuration or usage consent.”

Columinate’s research has shown that while consumers use online banking to make payments they are also increasingly using the service to purchase airtime, data and prepaid electricity.

“FNB continues to dominate in this area,” Pretorius said.

In ranking the ease of use, information, quality, trust, reasonable fees and innovation of the five banks, customers scored Capitec the highest. FNB was second, followed by Standard Bank, Nedbank and Absa. - Business Report